Netflix still hasn't officially arrived, but the battle over who has the best shows available on key streaming services in Australia has now well and truly started. Stan last night put the entirety of Nine's Gallipoli mini-series online ahead of its TV broadcast, while Ezyflix.tv made a swoop on another of Stan's key titles, Better Call Saul.
Gallipoli is one of Nine's flagship 2015 productions, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the actual battle in April. (Obviously it's not April, but since April includes a hefty chunk of the "non-ratings" Easter break, Nine wasn't going to wait that long.)
The first two episodes were shown last night, with broadcasts to continue on Monday evenings. But if you don't fancy waiting that long, Stan is offering up all seven episodes to subscribers immediately. (In theory, you could sign up for Stan's 30-day trial, watch the whole series and then cancel without paying anything.)
The press release announcing the move boasts that "this is the first time Australian television audiences have been able to watch the entire series of a major network drama production first on a streaming service". The qualification about drama is important; the ABC put the whole of Chris Lilley's Jonah From Tonga on iView last year (and you didn't have to pay for it).
If nothing else, that move suggests that Nine (a joint venture partner in Stan along with Fairfax) is quite willing to sacrifice a few ratings points to attract subscribers. But not everything is going Stan's way quite so easily.
Another key selling point for Stan has been its exclusive access to Better Call Saul, the much-hyped prequel to Breaking Bad. Stan will fast-track episodes from the US, but it turns out that's not the only way to access them digitally.
EzyFlix.tv is offering download-to-own copies of Better Call Saul, and has priced the entire 10-episode season pass at $10. For that money, you get your own permanent legal digital copy of each episode. The catch is that you can't download them until 24 hours after the episode airs. (The deal also only runs for two weeks.)
EzyFlix.tvs announcement contrasts its $10 price with the $30 you'd have to pay Stan to access the show over the life of the series. If you take up the free trial, it would only be $20, but it really comes down to whether you want a permanent copy rather than streaming access. (That's also assuming you're not just ignoring all the legal avenues and downloading a torrented copy instead.)
All this manoeuvring serves to remind us that rights deals are complex. Because Stan isn't pursuing the download-to-own market, AMC (which produces Better Call Saul) can sign a deal giving Stan exclusive streaming rights, and still claim a little more money by selling the download rights somewhere else. Those rights will probably have a limited exclusivity window, after which point the show will also become available on iTunes and Google Play.
Lurking in the background is the looming threat of Netflix, which is due to launch in Australia at some point in March. One popular theory suggests that Netflix might choose to actually launch in late February, thus tying in with series three of its own flagship production, House Of Cards.
Whether than happens or not, it looks like the first round of battles will be over "key" titles, rather than how many hundreds of shows and movies are on offer.
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Disclosure: Stan is a joint venture between Nine and Fairfax. Fairfax owns Allure Media, which publishes Lifehacker.